Armoured Car, Peerless (E1949.321)
Austin had made armoured cars during the war, mostly for the Imperial Russian Government which favoured a twin turret design. Some of these cars later served with the Tank Corps. The best chassis that the War Office could come up with was the Peerless, of which stocks were available. The Peerless was a robust, chain-drive chassis manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio which had been used in large numbers as lorries by the British Army during the war. In fact the chassis was too long for the Austin body, leaving a good deal sticking out at the back.
In reality it did not make a very good armoured car. It was too big, too unwieldy and slow while the crew got a rough ride on solid tyres. However it was durable and quite a few were still in service when the Second World War began. Peerless armoured cars saw service in Ireland, as food convoy escorts in London during the General Strike and with Royal Tank Corps Territorial Armoured Car Companies.
During painting in 1984 number 5035-CF was found below radiator flap and 31 on offside door.
Vehicle chassis is the standard 2.5 ton Peerless TC4 chassis and the armoured body an Austin design of 1918. Drive to rear wheels is by sprocket and chain. First car to have controls duplicated at back so allowed the vehicle to reverse easily in an emergency. Used in Irish Civil War, 7 of them handed over to National Army after treaty of 1921. These remained in service until 1934. After this the armoured bodies and guns utilized on locally produced AFVs.
Precise Name: Armoured Car, Peerless (1919 Pattern)
In 1919 the British Army found itself with major overseas commitments in what would now be termed ‘peace keeping’ operations, in for example the Middle East, India and Ireland. There was an acute shortage of armoured cars as many wartime vehicles were worn out. Few vehicle manufacturers were interested in undertaking war work when the profitable attractions of the burgeoning civilian market beckoned.
Eventually the Austin Motor Company of Birmingham agreed to manufacture armoured bodies based on the wartime armoured cars that they had built for the Imperial Russian Government, provided that the War Office could provide suitable chassis. These ‘Russian’ cars had twin side by side turrets. Some had served with the British Army’s Tank Corps.
The War Office had a large number of American made Peerless two and a half ton trucks in store and agreed to supply 100 chassis to Austin. The Peerless was a robust vehicle with a chain driven rear axle and the British used large numbers in World War I. It was too long for the Austin bodies so that rather a lot of the chassis poked out at the back. It was the first armoured car to have the driving controls duplicated in the rear of the vehicle so that it could be driven in reverse to get out of ‘tight corners’.
The resulting hybrid wasn’t a very good armoured car. It was too big, unwieldy and slow and the crew got a rough ride on solid tyres. Some of the Peerless cars were sent to Ireland in 1920 although the superior Rolls Royce armoured car quickly replaced them by the end of 1921. (See E1949.329 Armoured Car Rolls Royce 1920 Pattern Mark I). Some of these cars were passed on to the National Army of the Irish Free State. These remained in service until 1934 by which time the Peerless chassis were worn out. The bodies and guns were reused on locally manufactured vehicles.
Peerless armoured cars were also used in Britain to escort food conveys during the General Strike of 1926. When they were withdrawn from frontline service they were issued to the Royal Tank Corps Territorial Armoured Car Companies; one lasted with the Derbyshire Yeomanry until May 1940 when it was relegated to airfield defence.
The Tank Museum’s exhibit is painted in the markings of the 23rd London Armoured Car Company, a Territorial Army unit. When it was renovated in 1984 the number 5035-CF was found below the radiator flap while the number 31 was painted on the offside door.
Fletcher D.; Mechanised Force, British tanks between the wars; ISBN 0 11 290487 4; HMSO, London, 1991
White B. T.; British Tanks and Fighting Vehicles 1914-1945; SBN 7110 0123 5; Ian Allan, London, 1970.
Martin Karl; Irish Army Vehicles; ISBN 0 9543413 0 9; Cahil Printers, Dublin 2002.
Summary text by Mike Garth V1.0